Campaigning for the “Real American”

By Terry Keleher Oct 27, 2008

Sometimes I hear people say, “Racism is now more subtle than it used to be.” I’ve come to hate the term “subtle racism.” Racism may be concealed, complex, coded, or cleverly disguised. But it sure ain’t subtle. Not in terms of its impacts. Speaking of cleverly disguised but not very subtle racism, Gov. Sarah Palin’s remarks at a recent campaign stop in North Carolina sure qualify. The vice-presidential candidate said she and her running mate “believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you—hardworking, very patriotic, very pro-American areas of this great nation.” In her latest attempt to fan the flames of the culture war, she uses the term “real America” as a proxy for “real American,” which you can safely assume, in her little wonderland, is as white as Wonder bread. But, aw shucks, you gotta love that subtlety. Another voice from the campaign last week, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, had a very different answer to who qualifies as a real American. When asked, on “Meet the Press” about the false rumor that Obama is a Muslim, Powell said, “The really right answer is: What if he is? …Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That’s not America. Is something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be president?” Powell may have gotten it wrong when he was aiding and abetting Bush’s ill-conceived war against Iraq, but this time, he got it right. And he wasn’t even subtle about it.